Actors portray a scene during the Trail of Tears Drama, which took place at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s amphitheater from 1969 to 2005 in Park Hill, Okla. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO

Cherokee amphitheater once Trail of Tears Drama site

Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. COURTESY PHOTO The Trail of Tears Drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage. The play depicted the struggles of Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears and when they arrived in Indian Territory. COURTESY PHOTO An audience attending the Trail of Tears Drama in 1989 listens to pre-show entertainment. The drama opened in 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Dancers hold aloft a Phoenix Dancer during the Trail of Tears Drama, which opened in 1969 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. The summer drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff and was written by Kermit Hunter. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
05/29/2013 07:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tonia Hogner Weavel is an alumna of the original Trail of Tears Drama that began playing in June 1969 in an amphitheater built especially for it at the Cherokee Heritage Center. She was the principal dancer for it in 1974 and 1976.

Weavel, who is now the CHC’s education director, said the drama opened with about 75 actors, techs and support staff. It was written by Kermit Hunter and continued the dramatic story performed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians titled “Unto These Hills,” which is still shows today in Cherokee, N.C.

“It (“Unto These Hills”) was the first half of the removal, and ours was after we (Cherokee people) reached Indian Territory,” she said.

In an unusual twist, Weavel said the amphitheater where the drama was performed until 2005 was designed to fit the script. “Usually the theater is built and you just work with what you have but in this instance the theater was designed to fit the show.”

Charles “Chief” Boyd, an architecture graduate at the time, designed the amphitheater after traveling to New York City to research ideas with CHC co-founder Col. Martin Hagerstrand. The theater was designed using a “thrust stage or extended into the audience,” was steeply graded and fan-shaped.

“It was built to form an intimacy with the play. Even though it was a great outdoor amphitheater, it was designed to be as intimate to the stage as possible,” Weavel said.

The audience was never more than 75 feet from the stage, she added. And because of the steepness of the amphitheater, an audience of 1,800 could look down on the stage and actors.

“There was not a bad seat in the house, literally. For the most part you didn’t miss anything in any seat in the house,” Weavel said.

At the back of the main stage was a “mountaintop” with natural foliage. Behind the stage were dressing rooms. The stage had nine places for scenes and there were revolving stages on each side of the main stage.

Another impressive feature was it was the first outdoor theater with an air-cooled stage. On the stage sides were air-conditioning vents that blew across the stage, which Weavel said was necessary on hot nights.

Also, the stage’s design and theater served another purpose. Weavel said in the old days of the theater, actors did not use amplification devices to project their voices and needed “theater voices” that could project to the back of the stage.

“So we didn’t use any kind of microphone system because the theater was built in such a way as to carry the sound up,” she said. “We did have music and we did have narration, so there was a sound system.”

Later, actors used wireless microphones when they became more available and easier to use.

“The theater was a grand place. It was at a time when the technology we have today was not in place, so our entertainment was self-imposed. Like the drive-in theater that has gone by the wayside, amphitheaters have done the same. It’s much easier to sit in your air-conditioned home and dial up a movie on Netflix...than it is to take the effort to get in your car and go sit out in maybe 95-degree heat and make the effort to go see a show,” Weavel said.

She said ultimately that is why the drama stopped. Dwindling attendance along with the cost of putting on the drama made it impossible to continue.

“One thing that has not died is the people’s memories and their experiences with the Trail of Tears Drama from 1969 until it closed in 2005. It set wonderful memories and it allowed people to learn more about Cherokee culture,” she said.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

Culture

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
04/17/2015 08:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s archives for 2-D and 3-D collections are in dire need of a new storage location, CHC officials said. At a March 26 Tribal Council meeting, CHC Director Candessa Tehee said the archives located at the center have four threats working against them: temperature, humidity, light and pests. Unfortunately, temperature is a threat that CHC Curator Mikel Yantz and the center’s interim archivist cannot currently control, Tehee said. Yantz, who runs the permanent collections as well as the temporary and permanent exhibits in the museum, said the museum’s basement houses the archives and collections. “We have two separate areas downstairs. One is for archives, which is where we have our two-dimensional objects – so newspapers, letters and photographs,” he said. “We also have a separate area for collections, and that’s our three-dimensional objects – so pottery, basketry and stickball sticks. Anything that need to be put on larger shelves.” He said temperature control is the biggest concern when trying to preserve and maintain the archives and collections. “The building that we have wasn’t created four decades ago to sustain the temperature and humidity, so we’re looking forward to trying to fix that by possibly having a new building,” Yantz said. “If you have a higher temperature and higher humidity, it’s very susceptible to fabric or porous materials like wood and especially paper because what it will do is it will increase the moisture, and so it will start growing mold and start deteriorating those much faster than if it was a cooler temperature.” The average temperature for the basement is about 70 degrees, which Yantz says is too high. He said the humidity is OK in the winter, but in the summer as the humidity climbs so does the possibility of damage to the archives and collections. He said the ideal temperature is 60 degrees with 40 percent humidity. “And sometimes it fluctuates here in the building with the temperature outside,” Yantz said. “And as we know in Oklahoma, the temperature ranges from 20 to 120 (degrees) sometimes. And for us to sustain that year-round isn’t possible with what we have.” Yantz said space is another issue facing the CHC archives and collections. “We’re looking to create is around 7,000 square feet, which would double our size, but we’re also going to make sure that building is expandable so when we grow that room and building can grow with us,” he said. “The building will be right next to this museum. So if we need to transfer anything from that building to our exhibit area – because we do display a lot of our archives and collections – we’ll be able to do that and keep the document safe.” Tehee said there have been two recommendations. One is to refurbish the interior of the basement with the other being to build and on-site, metal-fabricated building that would be double the size of the basement. Yantz said the Cherokee National Historical Society board, which governs the CHC, is raising money through granting agencies and possibly the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses with hopes of creating a new storage area. Yantz said the CHC’s mission is to preserve, promote and teach the Cherokee history and culture. “And the documents and objects that we have here and that we preserve at the museum support that mission. It’s vital to make sure that these last for generations,” he added.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/15/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism and Preservation Oklahoma are partnering to teach people how to restore historical remains etched in stone. Professional gravestone and masonry conservator Jonathan Appell, member of the Preservation Trades Network, will lead the gravestone conservation workshop from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 7-8 at the Tahlequah Public Cemetery. An expert in cemetery preservation planning, Appell will lead the interactive training while covering topics on how to reset stones, repair fragmented stones, repoint and clean masonry and use infill material and appropriate repair materials. Tools and most materials will be provided for the workshops. Attendees are encouraged to bring a folding chair for comfort. Appell has performed gravestone preservation and planning projects on historic cemeteries throughout the U.S., including the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; The Granary in Boston; Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York; The First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Greensboro, North Carolina; and The New Haven Crypt in New Haven, Connecticut. Lunch will be provided and the cost to attend is $45. The workshop is limited to 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve space or get more information, go to <a href="http://www.preservationOK.org" target="_blank">www.preservationOK.org</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
04/13/2015 08:00 AM
WICHITA, Kan. – Meredith Radke-Gannon, a Cherokee artist and high school art teacher in Wichita, is taking part in a public-art project called “Keepers on Parade” that will place 10-foot tall fiberglass sculptures throughout the city. The sculptures are inspired by the “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture in downtown Wichita. Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin created the sculpture, and the group “Together Wichita,” made up of businesses and organizations, has recruited artists to paint the sculptures to showcase the city’s qualities. Radke-Gannon is completing a second painted sculpture, which is part of 50 to 75 sculptures city officials hope to place in the next year. “Keeper” sculptures are decorated with Native American themes or Kansas-themed paintings. Radke-Gannon chose to use Native American themes. She said the sculpture’s design could symbolize reaching toward the sky, sending prayers up to the heavens with smoke, a star symbol or even a sunflower facing its top toward the sun. Radke-Gannon grew up in McPherson, but her family originated in Chelsea, Oklahoma. She may have grown up in Kansas, but she said her interest in Native art began in Oklahoma. “A moment that really began my journey in Native American art was when I was 8 years old. My grandparents took me on an art adventure trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center, and I’ll never forget the artwork that was portrayed there and the Willard Stone wood-carved sculpture entitled ‘Exodus,’” she said. “After viewing the artwork, they drove me to Mr. Stone’s home and art studio. It was a moment I’ll never forget that really inspired me to explore art. He worked in a number of mediums and showed us the wood-carved sculpture project he was working on at the time. His warm spirit and creativity blessed me and inspired me to keep learning more about Native arts and culture.” She attended Kansas State University for art education before studying textile weaving and printing at the Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. “I was first drawn to weaving and textiles because of the process and colors that could be achieved but also because of the textile traditions in Cherokee culture,” she said. Later she did commercial weaving and weaving for her artwork before having children and staying home to raise them. Eight years ago she began teaching art, first as an elementary art education teacher and then as an art teacher at Northeast Magnet High School. She has also started taking oil-painting classes. “That was a year and a half ago and ever since then I’ve been painting non stop. I do some wood sculptures, too. As a weaver it’s so labor intensive. Like when I’d weave it would be an inch an hour or half an inch an hour. It was so time consuming that it was really hard to get out what was in my head onto fabric, so that’s why I’ve gone really crazy with painting because it’s a lot faster and it gets out what I’m wanting to portray in each piece,” she said. “And then the (“Keepers on Parade”) project came along, and I submitted designs for that.” She was among the first eight artists chosen to create designs and decorate the initial “Keepers on Parade” sculptures. Her first design was based on designs from the Wichita tribe. Her design for the second sculpture is based on the Kansas state flag and its symbols. The “Keepers on Parade” project is similar to a project in Cherokee, North Carolina, where bear sculptures were painted and placed throughout the town or the project in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where artists painted guitar sculptures. “They are trying to bring community pride together, something that will make a lasting impression. They are really trying to focus now on the town’s symbol with the ‘Keeper of the Plains.’ It is one of the most visited places in town,” she said. She entered a painting in the 2014 Trail of Tears Art Show at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma, and entered a painting and two wooden sculptures for this year’s show, which was slated to open on April 18. “I really want to do more entries and keep showing. That’s my goal,” she said. “I think as a teacher, I think students are really interested in what I’m doing because I’m creating along with them; I’m not just teaching them something. I’m also showing them art is a such viable medium, and I can express deep meaning things related to my culture.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/10/2015 12:00 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will hold its spring meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on April 11 at the Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs. The public is invited to attend the meeting to listen to keynote speaker Jay Hannah speak about how Cherokee people coped and survived following their removal to Indian Territory from their eastern homelands. Hannah is a Cherokee Nation citizen who grew up in Adair County. His family traveled on the Trail of Tears in 1839 and settled 20 miles from where he grew up in Peavine. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. He is also the executive vice president of financial services for BancFirst Corporation in Oklahoma City. This year’s “Remember the Removal” bicycle riders will also be guests at the meeting. At 2:30 p.m. on April 18 the Oklahoma Chapter of TOTA will hold a marking and honoring ceremony for three Cherokee people who survived the Trail of Tears but later died in Indian Territory. The ceremony will be held at the Round Springs Cemetery in Eucha in Delaware County. Removal survivors Charlotte Chopper, Chief Charles Thompson and Anderson Springston will be honored and TOTA plaques will be attached to their graves.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/09/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON –Without actually being in attendance, individuals will be able to enjoy “Cherokee Days” via live webcasts and numerous amounts of information that Cherokee Nation will be sharing on their social media accounts. “Cherokee Days” events begin on April 10 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. “Cherokee Days” consist of the partnering of the CN, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band to share the Cherokee story. “By partnering with the Smithsonian to stream the sessions on Cherokee history, genealogy and culture, we open the experience of Cherokee Days to a much broader audience,” CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We encourage everyone interested to log on and participate in this unique gathering of tribal historians, artisans and cultural experts. The information collectively shared by the three tribes will be educational as well as entertaining. It’s important we make this experience accessible to the world.” On April 10, Robert Lewis will tell traditional Cherokee stories, Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat will preform with his flute, the Cherokee National Youth Choir will preform and there will be traditional dances. On April 11, John Ross Jr. will give those interested an opportunity to learn more about the Cherokee language; Catherine Foreman Gray will present a lecture about the Trial of Tears; Roy Hamilton will speak about Cherokee genealogy; EBCI speakers will speak about the importance of natural resources; and Ernestine Berry will help people learn more about the history of the UKB. The performances start at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 10 and presentations start at 10 a.m. (EDT) on April 11 and can be viewed online via live webcast at <a href="http://nmai.si.edu/multimedia/webcasts/" target="_blank">http://nmai.si.edu/multimedia/webcasts/</a>. According to a CN press release, the public educational program is April 10-12 and includes an exhibit showcasing the history and culture of the three tribes, live cultural art demonstrations, and scheduled cultural performances. Among the activities is a make-and-take experience, which allows children to create traditional Cherokee items. CN officials will continually provide an inside look of the three-day event through its Tumblr page at <a href="http://www.CherokeeNationNews.tumblr.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeNationNews.tumblr.com</a>. There will also be updates on the CN’s Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.AmericanIndian.si.edu" target="_blank">www.AmericanIndian.si.edu</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/08/2015 04:00 PM
CAVE SPRING, Ga. – The Cave Spring Historical Society invites the public to join the Cave Spring community for a workday to unveil the 1810 Vann Cherokee Cabin on April 11. A local citizen discovered the Vann Cherokee Cabin beneath the dilapidated structure of the Green Hotel five years ago. Hotel rooms had been added to the cabin obscuring the original structure. After extensive research, it was verified a Cherokee man named Avery Vann built the two-story, hand-hewed log cabin in 1810. “The cabin needs a lot of work, but is in relatively good shape,” Michael Burton, president of the Cave Spring Historical Society, said. “We are excited to unveil the historic cabin and hope to raise enough funds to restore the structure and open it to the public by next June.” The society’s goal is to fundraise $50,000 for building restorations. The National Park Service officially recognizes the structure as a historic place. Additionally, the Trail of Tears Association officially recognizes the cabin as being located on the Trail of Tears. Volunteers are asked to meet at 8 a.m. on Broad Street at the Cave Spring Square. Volunteers should wear gloves and bring hand tools for the demolition of the dilapidated structure outside the cabin. The Cave Spring Historical Society was originally formed to save and restore historical buildings in Cave Spring’s Rolater Park. The society and local citizens continue to work together to protect and preserve historical buildings in Cave Spring. For more information, call Burton at 770-748-8542 or email <a href="mailto: aBurtonMik@mac.com">aBurtonMik@mac.com</a>.